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About the Show: Key Themes

HBO asked several of the nation's leading experts on drug and alcohol addiction, and a group of accomplished documentary filmmakers, to shed some light on the most current, most promising, developments in the field and the very latest thinking on addiction and recovery.  From research, the following emerged as key messages reflected in the ADDICTION project:

About Addiction

  • Addiction is a brain disease.
  • Addiction is NOT a moral failure.
  • Drugs and alcohol can “hijack” the brain’s natural pleasure pathways.
  • The risk factors for addiction include genetic and environmental factors (stress, availability).
  • Drug and alcohol abuse usually begins in adolescence, when the brain is still undergoing dramatic changes in both structure and function.
  • The younger one starts misusing drugs or alcohol, the greater the chances they  will become addicted.

About Treatment

  • Addiction is a treatable illness.
  • The sooner an addict gets into treatment the better.
  • The longer an addict stays in treatment, the greater the chance treatment will be effective.
  • There are medical treatments available to help treat addiction to opioids  (prescription painkillers, heroin) and alcoholism.
  • Evidence-based behavioral therapies are the best available treatments for treating addiction to stimulants (cocaine, methamphetamine).
  • Adolescents with drug or alcohol problems may require a different type of treatment than adults.
  • Treatments for addiction are as effective as treatments for diabetes, hypertension, or asthma.
  • Temporary abstinence and reduced consumption are beneficial for the patient and the community in which the patient lives. If treatment contributes to these intermediate steps, as well as to the ultimate goal of permanent abstinence, it is working.
  • Treatment does not have to be voluntary to be effective, but ultimately the addict must take personal responsibility for their recovery and be motivated to change.
  • The addict must make an effort to succeed in treatment.
  • Triggers can cause relapse, and relapse is a part of the disease, not (necessarily) a sign of failure.

These messages are conveyed to audiences in two ways: either by leading experts speaking on addiction and treatment options, or by example in documentary footage.

< Back to About The ADDICTION Project

The above information is courtesy of HBO.